British Columbia

Rich Coleman tells forum Liberals would offer rental incentives for homeowners

The B.C. Liberal candidate responsible for housing in the province the last four years raised the possibility of new incentives for homeowners to create rental units on their property during a housing forum on Wednesday.

But NDP's David Eby tells forum, 'I think we need affordable housing supply'

NDP candidate David Eby, Green Party candidate David Wong and B.C. Liberal Party candidate Rich Coleman (left to right) debate housing policies at a forum on Apr. 12, 2017. (Christer Waara/CBC)

B.C. Liberal candidate Rich Coleman raised the possibility of new incentives for homeowners to create rental units on their properties during a housing forum Wednesday. 

"We're going to put some money on the table, up to $20,000 for people to convert their basement into a basement suite, or a form of additional housing on their property for rental," Coleman told a housing forum hosted by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

The B.C. Liberals make no mention of such a plan in their platform, but Coleman said it would come from the expansion of an existing home renovation tax credit for making home improvements to accommodate seniors or family members with disabilities, which they're proposing to double from $10,000 to $20,000. 

Much of the forum focused on the Liberal party's newly-implemented Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program, which provides a maximum of  $37,500 — or up to five per cent of the purchase price. The loan is interest-free and payment-free for the first five years of a 25-year mortgage.

"Over 1,000 people have qualified, in less than two months," said Coleman, who said about 140 of those people were from Vancouver.

"If you take 4,000 people and move them into the marketplace, and say only 70 per are renters today, that's still 28,000 units of rental housing."   

The program was criticized by the forum's other two participants, the NDP's David Eby and Green Party candidate David Wong.

"To this day, I still can't figure out why the government took on a program to encourage people to take on additional debt, to encourage additional demand, when clearly we have a supply program," said Eby.

"The minister is wrong, he knows he's wrong.

"I think it's a dumb program. I think we need affordable housing supply."

Wong said there is a risk that homeowners won't be able to afford mortgage payments if interest rates rise.

"It's a very dangerous situation to encourage people to jump people into the marketplace when they're not ready," he said.

"This is something that has to be drilled into people who are thinking of entering the market. We need people to go to the market without being given false hope."

The forum occurred the same day that NDP leader John Horgan said he would introduce an annual $400 renter's rebate if his party wins the provincial election on May 9.